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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

An Oz-some Act - The Star


By SHARMILLA GANESAN
entertainment@thestar.com.my


Acting in The Wizard Of Oz is a dream come true for its cast.
WHEN you talk about having large shoes to fill, they don’t come much larger than a certain pair of ruby slippers – worn, of course, by Judy Garland in that unforgettable classic The Wizard Of Oz. Stephanie Van Driesen, however, is not about to let that trip up her portrayal of Dorothy in a homegrown stage production of the 1939 film.
“I haven’t thought about feeling intimidated by the role, and to be honest, I don’t want to either. To me, playing the role is about giving an honest performance that stays true to the story, and enjoying being a kid again,” says Van Driesen in a recent interview.
Over the rainbow: The stage adaptation of The Wizard Of Oz will see Stephanie Van Driesen playing Dorothy and Wolfgang playing her dog Toto.
Produced by Pan Productions and directed by Nell Ng, the musical is adapted from the original 1939 script, albeit with the addition of new songs composed by Eric Hah. Besides gorgeous costumes and sets, the show features the talents of Malaysian actors like Peter Ong, Radhi Khalid, Zalina Lee, Tria Aziz, Suhaili Micheline and Mano Maniam.
The story revolves around Dorothy, who lands in the magical land of Oz with her dog Toto when a cyclone carries off her house from Kansas.
On her way to see the Wizard of Oz to find a way home, she befriends the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion, who each wants to ask the Wizard for a brain, heart and courage.
The Wizard, however, will only grant their wishes if they bring him the Wicked Witch of the West’s broomstick.
And so Dorothy and her friends must try to outwit the Witch, while making sure she doesn’t get her hands on Dorothy’s magical ruby slippers.
Ong, who is playing the Scarecrow (originated by Ray Bolger in the film), says the role is wonderfully fun to play.
“As the Scarecrow doesn’t have a brain, there is literally nothing to think about!” he says with a laugh. “It is very refreshing to look through the eyes of such a simple being.”
The physicality of the role, however, demanded that he literally take some pains.
“It’s a very physical role; I can’t stand, run or walk as I normally do. I’m in the process of trying to find ways to ‘flop’ while doing normal things. There’s a lot of falling down to do as well, which does get quite bruising!” says Ong, who also performed in Pan’s Cabaret last year.
Actor Peter Ong plays the Scarecrow.
Van Driesen, recently seen in The Secret Life Of Nora and Cabaret, says she had to think how best to play a young girl onstage.
“It’s about embracing that aspect of playing, and relaxing more to play more. My inner child comes out, I suppose, and I think about what a kid would do in a particular situation.”
She adds that she found elements in herself that related to Dorothy’s character.
“I’m a dreamer as well, I like creating and make-believe. There are also aspects that are quite personal to me, like a kid really wanting to be heard, or feeling guilty about making something happen. All these help me play the character with honesty, rather than just trying to play a little girl,” she explains.
Ong and Van Driesen agree that being able to perform as such iconic characters is a dream come true for any actor.
“It’s a lovely opportunity to take these really well-known roles and make it your own, to create something the audience hasn’t seen,” Van Driesen concludes.

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Live to love and love to live. The motto that I held on my entire life. Just a regular guy who loves what I am passionate in life. A song writer and producer. Living life on the move. From Malaysia to The States, New Zealand to Singapore. With the companion of great people in life. In and out from the music industry. Taking everything one step at a time. 
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